Teacher Profiles

PA Cyber middle school principal attends Army Leadership Symposium

Nov 10, 2015

PA Cyber Middle School Principal Jerald A. “Jay” Barris was among 20 school principals from across the nation selected to participate in the third annual National Association of Secondary School Principals and U.S. Army Leadership and Professional Development Symposium. He was one of only three principals representing online public schools.

Barris was accompanied by PA Cyber middle school counselor Stephanie D. Smith, who works out of the Philadelphia Regional Office.

The conferences were held at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., during the first week in November. Expenses were paid by the U.S. Army.

 “The Army leaders we met with included two major generals, officers who have practiced leadership for 30 years. It was very beneficial to talk to these people,” said Barris.

Smith said a comment by one Army speaker particularly relates to the innovative spirit of online schools like PA Cyber. “During Maj. Gen. Peggy Combs’ lecture on building and sustaining leadership, she said, ‘If you have a great idea, never let it get away.’”

Smith noted that this is the first year that school counselors were invited to accompany principals to the symposium and take part in the workshops. “We discussed what works within our schools and what doesn’t. We outlined administrative expectations, our roles, and how the principal-counselor relationship can continue to grow.”

Col. Rick Kelling, deputy director of the Army Marketing and Research Group, said the symposium has two goals: to serve as a platform for discussion, open dialogue, collaboration and greater understanding between the U.S. Army and American secondary school educators, and to share best practices for leadership and professional development.

“We all have something to teach and learn from one another,” Kelling said.

“We found a lot of commonality,” Barris said. “The Army has a virtual school where soldiers in forward operating bases can take online classes while deployed.”

Tony Castillo, Educational Service Specialist for the U.S. Army said soldiers no longer have to wait until discharge to have the Army help pay for their college education. Recruiters now are saying, “Don’t ask me about Army, then college. Ask me about Army and college.”

The current push to “right size” – that is, downsize -  the Army will make it tougher for high school graduates, including those from online schools, to enlist and/or be trained in their choice of specialty, Barris learned. The Army’s recruitment goal for this year is only 62,500 enlistees.

Educators were encouraged to get to know and develop a relationship with their local recruiters.

“For us at PA Cyber to have a recruiter relationship, who do we establish it with? There are hundreds of recruiters in Pennsylvania,” Barris said. He learned that the Army has regional educational service specialists who could help make connections.

Barris learned the Army routinely gathers basic public information – name, address, and phone number – on graduates from traditional public schools, but it was unclear in discussions at the meeting whether the Army does so for cyber school graduates, which could put them at a disadvantage for recruitment.

He learned that the Army maintains a website, march2success.org, providing remedial activities in reading and math, and a website with seven full-length SAT and ACT sample tests. Both may be accessed by anyone at no charge. He plans to explore possible use of those sites for PA Cyber students with his teaching and school counseling staff.

Barris attended Slippery Rock University where he was offered a four-year Army ROTC scholarship, earning his bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education. He taught at Summit Academy, Ambridge Area School District, and West Middlesex School District before coming to PA Cyber in May 2014.

His professional background includes teaching adjudicated youths, autistic support, emotional support, learning support, Algebra I, Title I reading and math, and elementary and high school Title 1 coaching and coordinating.

He holds a master’s degree and supervisor of special education certification from Slippery Rock, and principal’s certification and certification as a vocational administrative director from Edinboro University. He has completed 27 core doctoral credits towards a doctorate in education at Slippery Rock with a focus in educational leadership and special education. He also serves as an adjunct professor at Slippery Rock University where he teaches special education law.

At PA Cyber he supervises 80 staff members and 2,300 students in grades 6-8.

The Army has invited Barris to visit Ft. Hood, Texas, next summer to observe the making of a solider through Army basic training.

Media Contact

Casie Colalella / casie.colalella@pacyber.org

About PA Cyber

Serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber) is one of the largest, most experienced, and most successful online public schools in the nation. PA Cyber's online learning environments, personalized instructional methods, and choices of curricula connect Pennsylvania students and their families with state-certified and highly-qualified teachers, and rich academic content that is aligned to state standards. Founded in 2000, PA Cyber is headquartered in Midland (Beaver County) and maintains a network of support offices throughout the state. As a public school, PA Cyber is open for enrollment by any school-age child residing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and does not charge tuition to students or families.